One in four relationships now start online, and that number will only increase.
However, research seems to suggest that vast choice – although alluring – actually works against us, and that online dating compounds our biases rather than challenging them.
Undoubtedly, online dating can detach us from other people’s humanity, and foster the worst in some people.
Even though dating apps have a propensity to dehumanise potential suitors, they are a highly convenient way of streamlining possible partners according to our favoured criteria (such as bacon), cutting out time-wasters and minimising the achingly cringe-inducing encounters that we’ve all experienced on terrible first dates. They allow us to mercilessly and immediately dismiss people who don’t meet our subjective criteria, while eliminating the face-to-face element of initial contact. I know he fosters puppies and feeds the homeless in his free time, but I just don’t like hat guys.” This distance can be comforting because it buffers rejection on both sides and allows us to ‘put ourselves out there’ without feeling compromised.
Online and app-based dating has changed the way we interact with each other.However, it also makes it easier for us to close ourselves entirely to the potential of ‘non-ideal’ candidates, some of whom may like hats and smoked bacon but be great anyway.Depending on what you’re looking for online, this can be problematic because, interestingly, we are terrible at knowing what we actually want, and should really have a lot less faith in our criteria.We’ve moved on from discomfort or embarrassment about using technology to connect with other people.There’s a whole generation of millennials who use dating apps as a matter of course, and it makes sense that we think a bigger pool increases the likelihood of finding someone we’re actually compatible with.Online, sending the word in block capitals still probably isn’t a good idea, but for men initiating contact and not getting a response, it isn’t as debilitatingly soul crushing.Everyone is generally braver and less accountable online – more likely to communicate with others in a way that we would certainly hesitate to when faced with that person looking directly at us in conversation.Where the endless choice becomes complicated is trying to form a traditionally monogamous heterosexual relationship (where bacon isn’t necessarily a central focus).Despite living in an age where your every dating preference can be catered to online, being face-to-face matters.Yeah, I didn’t realise that loving bacon is a criterion to base any form of relationship on either.But now I know it is, I wouldn’t dream of dating a man who didn’t share my strong preference for thin and crispy non-smoked streaky bacon.